Monday, January 23, 2006

Hugging (Tightly) as a Major Life Activity Under the ADA

I'm not making this stuff up.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in Nuzum v. Ozark Automotive Distributors Inc. (8th Cir. Dec. 27, 2005), recently considered whether the act of hugging was a major life activity for purposes of determining disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

In Nuzum, the plaintiff claimed that although he was still able to hig his wife, he was not able to hug her as tightly because of his elbow tendinitis.

Although the court recognized that “'hugging' as a major life activity could be analyzed in several ways," including "as the motor function of squeezing," or "with some linguistic strain . . . as part of the ability to perform manual tasks, or "as part of the ability to engage in sexual relations," the court concluded:

[T]he limitation on hugging, whether it is characterized as a motor function, a task, or as part of the ability to engage in sexual relations, does not appear to be substantial because Nuzum testified that he can still hug his wife, just not as tightly as he did before. In any case, we need not belabor the question of how much hugging limitation is substantial or whether hugging is a major life activity, because even if Nuzum were held to be disabled by virtue of the hugging limitation, it would not save his claim since he seeks an accommodation from his employer, which must be related to the limitation in question.

Wow, talk about an anti-Valentine's day decision!  And now that this momentous legal quandry has been cleared up, I'm the one who could really use a hug.


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Interesting that the court considered hugging "as part of the ability to engage in sexual relations". Even post-Bragdon, not all courts have accepted that the ability to engage in sexual relations (as distinct from reproduction) is a major life activity under the ADA. Of course, a cynic might suggest that this says more about federal judges than it does about the ADA. Now that would have been an interesting question in the Alito confirmation hearings!

Posted by: Eric Fink | Jan 23, 2006 7:04:05 PM

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